Initiative Supports Music Education In Schools
Visitors to Gretsch.com often read about the activities of Gretsch Company president Fred W. Gretsch. But as Fred would be the first to tell you, his wife Dinah is just as involved in company activities as he is. In fact, as chief financial officer of The Gretsch Company, Dinah Gretsch has been a prominent figure in the musical-instrument industry for more than thirty years.
But Dinah is much more than a key Gretsch Company officer. She is also a parent and grandparent, with an abiding love for children and a keen interest in their development. Given her connection to music, Dinah is particularly concerned with providing children the opportunity to benefit from music education. Accordingly, in June of this year she created the Mrs. G’s Music Foundation. The Foundation’s initial goal is to promote music education in schools located within the greater Savannah area, where The Gretsch Company is based.
“Budget problems have forced many schools across the country to cut out their music programs,” says Dinah. “And that’s sad. But there are many rural schools in our area that have never had music programs, and that’s a tragedy. The Mrs. G’s Music Foundation is tied in with the Savannah Community Foundation as a way to solicit funds for direct aid to those schools.”
The aid in question is being used to fund instructional music programs, as well as seminars, workshops, and concerts by visiting artists. The artist visits serve double-duty as teaching programs and motivational sessions.
The Foundation’s efforts were inaugurated recently at the Thomas Heyward Academy (THA), which is located near the Gretsch USA factory in Ridgeland, South Carolina. One hundred fifty students are taking part in a World Drumming Program created by noted educator Dr. William Schmidt in conjunction with drumhead and percussion manufacturer Remo, Inc. Funds were provided to supply percussion instruments and workbooks for the students, along with instructional materials for the teacher. In addition, The Gretsch Foundation—the charitable arm of the Gretsch Family—donated guitars to supply guitar students with practice instruments.
“We even refurbished a building on the campus to create a music teaching studio,” says Dinah, enthusiastically. “Now the kids not only have a music program, they also have a dedicated space for that program.”
The Foundation’s In-House Visiting Artist program was also inaugurated at Thomas Heyward Academy with a presentation this past September 10 by top drummer and Gretsch endorser Mark Schulman. Mark has played with such artists as Cher, Foreigner, and Sheryl Crow, and he’s currently touring with pop superstar Pink.
The Thomas Heyward Academy students packed the school’s gym to watch Mark play drums and give an inspirational speech. He spoke to the students about always staying positive, stressing that a good attitude and good behavior will lead to a good life. Mark also believes in the inspiration of music, citing studies that show how students who play music have improved math and English scores. “Music inspires so much joy and such an ability to create,” he said. “Every component of your being wins when you’re playing music.”
But Mark wasn’t the only star of the show. When he asked if any student wanted to sing with him, Jacob Rountree stepped forward. But Jacob didn’t want to sing—he wanted to play the drums. The fifteen-year-old sophomore started playing drums when he was ten, gave it up for awhile, but got back into it about a year ago. When Mark heard that Jacob was a drummer, he stepped aside and let the youngster jam.
Mark’s dynamic presentation at Thomas Heyward Academy was followed on September 30 with an all-day seminar/workshop and an afternoon concert featuring rising guitar star Joe Robinson. Joe was the winner of the Australia’s Got Talent TV competition in 2008—at the age of sixteen—and he’s already made a name for himself within the Nashville musical community. His attendance at the school caught the attention of local media.
Six more artist presentations are planned for this year.
Dinah Gretsch also gave students at Thomas Heyward Academy the opportunity to design a logo for her new foundation, to be featured on all written materials and promotional items. The winning design, by eighth-grader Mauldin Sauls, was selected from a large group by Mark Schulman. Mauldin received a $500 prize for her efforts.
The World Drumming Program has also been instituted at Savannah’s Notre Dame Academy. At that location the Mrs. G’s Foundation will also fund the music teacher.
“We want to broaden the scope of the Mrs. G’s Music Foundation as much as possible,” says Dinah Gretsch, “in order to help as many kids as we can. So we’re coordinating with North Carolina’s “Music For Learning” program in a 50/50 funding partnership to put music education into six different Head Start daycare centers in Savannah. We’ll be working with other projects in the future.
“I believe that music has the power to change children’s lives for the better,” Dinah concludes. “And if we can reach young children with that power, we can set them on a positive path for the rest of their lives. I have the time and the connections with which to implement the Mrs. G’s Music Foundation . . . and the children provide me with the motivation. I think it’s going to be a very productive combination.”